By now most of us have probably heard about the World Health Organization’s decision to recognize the Novel Coronavirus, as a Global Pandemic. Various governments, from countries all over the world, have established strict travel restrictions and containment strategies for their citizens. A growing number of businesses, educational institutions, sports and entertainment organizations have either canceled or postponed their conferences, events and/or mass gatherings as a precautionary measure.
I was asked to participate in a very important teleconference call on Wednesday, March 11th, with Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Dr. Bonnie Henry and 127 other Faith-based Leaders in British Columbia. Our discussion involved the serious nature of this Coronavirus Global Pandemic and our BC Government’s response and containment strategies.
The health and safety of all BC residents is a shared responsibility of government and private sector (Faith-based) agencies. The NDP Cabinet continues to meet every day for briefings about the spread of COVID-19 and how it will impact the people of BC. Dr. Henry does not believe the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic will continue for a lengthy season. However, she does believe that the most critical time for containment of this pandemic will be during the next 3-8 weeks. The BC Government is asking leaders from Faith-based communities to exercise extreme wisdom and caution, in order to prevent the virus from spreading more quickly.
The Governments of British Columbia, Alberta and the State of Washington have now issued official health advisories restricting the attendance of mass gatherings to a limit of 50 attendees. As such, our District Leadership Team was left with no other alternative than to cancel our District Conference and TimeOut this March.
Our District Leadership Team met today to review the results of our comprehensive risk assessment for the Annual District Conference and the NGM TimeOut Retreat. Conducting this risk assessment was recommended by BC’s Minister of Health. It was recommended that all non-essential, Faith-based conferences, seminars and mass gatherings, which include the following conditions should be considered as “high-risk events” and their leadership should consider cancellation or postponement of the event.
Our Conference gatherings always include more than 50 people from all generations, international leaders, speakers, ministry partners and individuals traveling to and from various countries. Registrants may have varying health conditions, which include respiratory illness, compromised immune systems, high blood pressure and/or diabetes. During our conferences, we regularly provide refreshments and share delicious meals together. We enjoy multiple points of physical contact (personal times of prayer at our altars, and interaction during worship), and we offer breakout sessions where people sit in close proximity to one another. Unfortunately, these facts have left our DLT with no other option but to cancel our gathering of the District Conference this year. An online Conference Business session is being planned in order to satisfy the requirements of CRA. We will provide further notice for the date, time, and connection details.
We have been told that airline companies, hotels, and ground transportation companies are offering to waive cancellation fees and provide full refunds or credits to people affected by travel restrictions or event cancelations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our administrative team will work hard to assist all our current registrants in making any appropriate adjustments in order to accommodate our emergency cancelation.
Our District Leadership Team, Ministry Lead Team, and administrative staff are taking some proactive steps to help our churches facilitate weekly Christian ministry through virtual platforms. We are working hard to provide links for live stream weekly worship services, online giving platforms, and ministry resources during this containment period. More information will follow shortly on our district website.
We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this serious situation has caused. Please join us in prayer for every individual and family member who has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Psalm 46, we are reminded that it is God who is our refuge and strength, and our ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, let us not fear, but with confidence use this opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus through our prayers and our care for others.
Please join our Prayer Coordinators (Pastor Les and Pat Markham) in concerted prayer for the eradication of this Coronavirus Pandemic, and Divine healing for those who have been infected.
We’re better together,
Rev. Kenneth A. Russell